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Full text of "My Country And My People"

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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER               43

already married. They have wives and families to think about,
their parents to remember, and perhaps some cousins to help
through school. Responsibility makes men sober, and a
national cultural tradition helps them to think sanely about
life at a period earlier than they could arrive at individually.
But their mellowness does not come from books; it comes
from a society which is apt to laugh young enthusiasm out of
court. The Chinese have a certain contempt for young en-
thusiasm and for new brooms that will sweep this universe
clean. By laughing at that enthusiasm and at the belief that
everything is possible in the world, Chinese society early
teaches the young to hold their tongues while their elders are
speaking. Very soon the Chinese youth learns this, and
instead of being foolish enough to support any proposed
scheme or socialistic venture, he learns to comment unfavour-
ably upon it, pointing out all the possible difficulties, and in
that way gets his pass into mature society. Then, after coming
back from Europe or America, he begins to manufacture
tooth-paste and calls it "saving the country by industrialization"
or he translates some American free verse and calls it "in-
troduction of the Western culture." And since he has usually
a big family to support and some cousins for whom to secure
positions, he cannot remain a school teacher if he is in the
teaching profession, but must think of ways and means to rise
higher, perhaps become a dean, and in that way become a good
member of his family. That process of trying to rise higher
teaches him some memorable lessons of life and human nature,
and if he escapes all that experience and remains a round-
eyed, innocent hot-headed young man at thirty, still en-
thusiastic for progress and reform, he is either an inspired
idiot or a confounded genius.


Let us take the three worst and most striking characteristics,
patience, indifference and old roguery, and see how they
arose. I believe that these are effects of culture and environ-
ment and hence are not necessarily a part of the Chinese